Leave the Girl Scouts Alone!

I came across a blog post today deriding the Girl Scout's recent logo change.

First, the old and new logos, courtesy of Fast Company.  Then, my rant about this particular post.

I know. I can't tell the difference either.  But that's not what bugs me.  The brief blog post is full of sweeping statements about how branding isn't important to nonprofits.  Let's start with:

"Nonprofits just don't spend that much time in front of their constituent's eyes for them to make changes in how they present themselves"

Seriously? Did you hear that, nonprofits? Forget marketing and branding entirely. Don't worry about how you present yourself. Just keep doing good and the donations and grants will keep rolling in. The intense competition for people's attention that for-profits deal with? That doesn't apply to you.

The writer goes on:

"Few nonprofits can afford to advertise to reinforce their brand. Even when they utilize the miracles of new media to become their own media channnel, it just isn't enough to allow them to change looks, taglines, or missions in a way that resonates with people."

Again, seriously? Of course nonprofits advertise – many with expensive national media campaigns just like for-profits, and many with other channels, including the "miracles" of new media. The goal is the same – just like nobody will buy a product they're not even aware of, nobody will give to/volunteer for/apply for grants to/offer grants to/etc a non-profit if they don't know it exists. Awareness is vitally important to every nonprofit, and "looks, taglines, and missions" serve the same vital purpose to nonprofits that they do for for-profits: they communicate to the world who you are, what you do, and why people should care.

And finally:

"The acid test for the Girl Scouts would be to ask people in a year which logo is the new one."

Not necessarily. This is a subtle but important distinction.  The goal of a redesign — whether of a logo, a website, product packaging, a storefront, etc — can sometimes be to communicate that something's changing, but the overriding goal should be for that object – that interface with the public – to perform better than the old one did. If a store rearranged its products and sales increased but nobody noticed, I suspect the owners would still consider that change a success. If changing their logo results in increased participation in local scouting groups, the Girl Scouts will have succeeded with their redesign whether anyone can tell you which logo is which or not.  Will a change this subtle have any effect?  Who knows, but that effect is what should be analyzed, not whether people can tell which logo is which when asked.

Did the Girl Scouts spend too much money for a too-subtle logo redesign? Possibly. But that doesn't excuse the writer's blatant and incorrect generalizations about nonprofits and branding.

Philadelphia NetTuesday Social Web Sampler

Last night I had the pleasure of participating in an event called "A Social Web Sampler," produced by Philly NetSquared.  If you're not familiar with NetSquared (or NetTuesday as the events are sometimes called) it's a group that brings together people working in technology and social media, with and for non-profits.  Last nights event was designed to expose participants to a variety of social networking tools -- standards like Facebook and Twitter, and a few newcomers like FourSquare.

Something I appreciate about Philly's NetTuesday events is how incredibly interactive they are.  And I'm not talking about people sitting in the audience raising their hands to ask questions.  Last night for example, there were five "stations" spread around the room, and 3 "sessions" of 15 minutes each.  (See chart)  At each station was a computer and a group leader, with an appointed topic.  At the start of each session, participants moved to the table of the topic that interested them.  The group leader was not responsible for any lengthy prepared presentation, but rather simply to facilitate a conversation around that topic.  

I led a session on content management systems, and we had a nice gathering of folks interested in different systems.  We talked about the differences between installed and hosted software, and how WordPress and now Drupal are available as the identical software in either installed or hosted form (see Drupal Gardens for hosted Drupal).  We ran through some common and less-common modules for Drupal that I happen to like using, and we discussed Joomla and its lack of noticeable presence in Philadelphia.  Of course I had to put in a plug for folks interested in Drupal to attend Drupaldelphia which is coming up next week.

If you're involved in running tech or networking events and you're looking for ways to get people talking more and up the level of interactivity, I'd definitely consider this kind of rotating small-group event.  Once you get people over the idea that to lead a group they have to be an expert and put a lot of time into preparation, people are generally willing to step forward and share.


Philadelphia Green Business Program

In early 2009, The Pennsylvania Environmental Council launched a new initiative to recognize businesses in the Philadelphia region who had committed to improving their environmental and sustainability practices. By establishing and communicating discrete tasks businesses can take to reduce their carbon emissions and their overall environmental footprint, the program also provides a framework for businesses who want to go green but aren't sure where to begin. Rock River Star designed and developed the Green Business Program website which enables companies to manage their participation in the program online, from initial signup, to assessing their current state with a carbon footprint calculator, to tracking their progress on a 130 item checklist, to garnering public recognition on a "Basic, Silver, Gold, Platinum" scale of sustainability. Along the way, interactive discussion forums, carbon emissions Q&A features, and community news feed and events calendar provide the information, resources, and support companies need to achieve their green business goals.

Plan Philly

Philadelphia is experiencing a burst of creative energy in urban planning and community involvement in determining the future of its built environment.  We're rethinking our zoning code, reimagining our waterfront, and redefining our goals as a sustainable twenty-first century city.  

At the heart of this is PlanPhilly, an inititative created in 2006 to cover the Central Delaware Riverfront Visioning exercise and, funded by the William Penn Foundation and the John S. Knight Foundation.  Rock River Star was honored to be chosen to build the PlanPhilly website when the project began, and has been continuously involved in expanding the site as the scope and mission of PlanPhilly expands from the Central Delaware Riverfront, to planning issues that affect the city and region as a whole.